Defense will be key to Panthers' success
Matt Brandt is counting on a ball-hawking defense and balanced offense to lead the Park Rapids boys basketball team to another successful season. A year ago, the Panthers compiled an 8-5 record against Section 8AA opponents to finish with a 12-12...
Matt Brandt is counting on a ball-hawking defense and balanced offense to lead the Park Rapids boys basketball team to another successful season.
A year ago, the Panthers compiled an 8-5 record against Section 8AA opponents to finish with a 12-12 overall record. Park Rapids received the No. 4 seed in the South for the Section 8AA tournament and followed a 65-64 double-overtime victory over Wadena-Deer Creek at home with a 58-45 loss to Hawley in the section quarterfinals.
Brandt is looking for another solid defensive effort and more consistent shooting on the offensive end to help the Panthers finish with a winning record and a higher seed for the section tournament this winter.
A solid nucleus returns from a team that averaged 54.1 points a game while allowing 58.7 points a night. Park Rapids shot 42.7 percent from the field (520 for 1,219, including making 164 of 449 3-pointers) and 59.6 percent at the free throw line (221 for 371).
Being counted on to lead the Panthers this season are seniors Gabe Bagstad, Tristin Persons, Jake Reish and Preston Renneberg; and juniors Jeff Haas and Shawn Ohm. Bagstad and Persons earned Mid-State Conference honors last season as Park Rapids went 3-7 in conference games.
Bagstad, a 6-foot guard, led the Panthers in scoring with 497 points by making 176 of 397 shots (including a team-leading 91 3-pointers in 243 attempts) and 54 of 69 free throws. Bagstad, who shared the team's MVP honor, also led the team with 61 steals while contributing 55 rebounds and 15 assists in 26 starts.
Persons, a 5-8 guard, scored 341 points by making 116 of 273 shots (including 35 of 102 3-pointers) and 74 of 116 free throws. Persons had 62 rebounds, 40 steals and 26 assists in 26 starts.
Reish, a 6-3 forward, tallied 133 points, 71 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in 26 games. Reish made 53 of 115 field goals and 25 of 49 free throws.
Haas, a 5-11 forward, played in 25 games and scored 57 points with 70 rebounds and 13 steals, Haas hit 26 of 51 shots.
Renneberg, a 6-7 center, led the team with 93 rebounds and 24 blocked shots while scoring 34 points in 26 games.
Ohm, a 6-5 center, chipped in 26 points and 25 rebounds in 21 games.
Being counted on to fill the roles left by the graduation of Jeff Haas (who shared team MVP honors after scoring 192 points and leading the team with 46 assists while adding 73 rebounds and 41 steals), Blake Johnson (who scored 79 points and had 50 rebounds), Will Pickar (who scored 22 points), Carter Novak (who scored 20 points) and Luke Kosel (who scored 15 points) will be seniors Rylley Clark (6-0 forward), Ty Karger (5-10 forward), Brennan Garwood (5-10 forward) and Jacob Stewart (6-2 center); juniors Hunter Brandt (5-10 guard) and Kolby Brandt (5-11 forward); and freshman Nicholas Michaelson (6-5 center).
Starting the season on junior varsity will be juniors Gabe Arola, Keegan Moses and Avery Wolff; and sophomores Skylar Hagen, James Hartig, Kenton Klein, Chaise Persons, Isaiah Phillippi and Kaiden Walsh. The C squad will feature freshmen Parker Harmon, Isaiah Olson, Joseph Raidt, Sam Reish, Kaleb Stearns, Zachariah Van Batavia, Sam Warne and Kiergon Wilkins.
"We're coming off a good year and we have a solid core coming back. Unfortunately, every other team has a lot of talented players back. There is a senior-dominated group in the section this season," said Brandt, who was named the Mid-State Conference Coach of the Year last season. "Defense is going to be our focus again. We're going to have to dominate on the defensive side of the ball and make sure our defense transitions to offense by creating turnovers. I look for us to improve and be a tough team down the stretch."
Detroit Lakes and Pequot Lakes shared the conference title last season with 8-2 records while Staples-Motley and Crosby-Ironton finished at 4-6. Aitkin joined the Panthers at 3-7. In the Section 8AA tournament, Breckenridge defeated Perham 49-39 in the title game. Perham enters the season rated No. 3, Hawley is rated No. 9 and Breckenridge is rated No. 10 in the state Class AA pre-season poll.
Brandt sees Detroit Lakes and Pequot Lakes once again battling for the conference title with the Panthers being in the mix. In addition to the three rated teams, Brandt sees East Grand Forks as another top contender in the section. As for the Panthers, Brandt is looking for his team to produce a winning season and peak for the section playoffs.
"I look for us to be very competitive in every game and I'm looking for us to get a couple more wins this year. When we play at our best, we can compete with any team," said Brandt, who will be assisted by Michael Lorden. "Every game is going to be tough. Right now I see us being in the middle of the pack in the section, but we have the potential to be in the top half of the section and get a home playoff game. I think that is very attainable. It all comes down to the kids being focused and ready to play every night."
Nov. 30 - at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 4 - vs. Pillager, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 - at Frazee, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 - at Staples-Motley, 7:15 p.m. Dec. 18 - vs. Aitkin at Century School gym, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 - vs. Wadena-Deer Creek, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 27-28 - Park Rapids Holiday Tournament.
Jan. 8 - at Crosby-Ironton, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 11 - vs. Hawley, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 - at Crookston, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18 - at Detroit Lakes, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 24 - vs. Pequot Lakes, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26 - at Pelican Rapids, 3:30 p.m. Jan. 29 - vs. Staples-Motley, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 - at Aitkin, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 5 - at Perham, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 - vs. Crosby-Ironton, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 - vs. Barnesville at Fargo Civic Center, 6:15 p.m. Feb. 14 - vs. Detroit Lakes, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 - vs. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 - at Pequot Lakes, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 26 - vs. East Grand Forks, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 - vs. Bagley, 7:30 p.m.